Submitted by Thea Monyee’
I grew up in Inglewood, California, first generation Los Angelena, and first generation Panamanian through my father’s heritage. My parents established our family during the early eighties, starting at trade schools and working their way through the corporate trenches. Most of my generation was encouraged to “get a good job” and stay put long enough to collect a healthy retirement to support the needs of the family until I die. I cannot recall a single conversation or role model who was an entrepreneur.
For many of us coming of age post 9/11 and the economic collapse of 2007, the security of long term employment and safety of pensions and retirement have become mythological. Gig economies and the internet have dramatically shifted the terrain of adulting—and implicit bias and racism play a role in our ability to navigate the growing need and desire for self employment in a time of heightened social change and awareness.
Part of me always knew I needed the freedom of self employment, but I was conditioned to view it as too risky and uncertain. In addition to these embedded beliefs, I struggled to find Black role models who were succeeding in their respective businesses without centering a White business model. The few examples often presented to Black entrepreneurs often suggested and championed strategies mirroring many of the values and traits of Euro-centered capitalism. I couldn’t see myself thriving sustainably in these settings, or maintaining these values long term. After many years of trial and error I realized I needed to create my own blueprint, centering my current and ancestral values. I’d like to share three of the most impactful lessons I have learned.
A founding tenet of my company, MarleyAyo Inc., is that we constantly ask ourselves, does this bring us joy? Before we enter agreements, establish new partnerships, evaluate content, we ask ourselves this question. We even ask potential employees to identify how they create and maintain joy in their lives! This usually catches them off guard because no one asks about joy. I started this practice as a therapist nearly four years ago and it was a monumental gamechanger. It shifted the culture of my life and my company from one of analysis, critique, and dissatisfaction, to one of fun, creativity, and growth.
Ouch! This lesson hurt.
I initially assumed a decolonized model would automatically attract and transform people into their best version of themselves….WRONG! The antidote to the punitive and stress inducing nature of corporate America was not the absence of consequences; it was communal accountability. Establishing communal accountability means every employee must know their value and their impact. Not getting things in on time is not about my schedule, it’s about maintaining our collective flow, supporting each other, and being safe enough to say when there are tasks that need additional support. Organic consequences will surface. Pay may contract, contracts may come to an end, or sometimes we discover it’s not a good fit. There are also organic revelations such as hidden skills, abilities, and strengths that are unearthed. There’s no perfect way to navigate roles and relationships in work spaces, but I’ve found centering joy, centering relationships, and reinforcing value and impact allows our company to ebb and flow with less tension and conflict.
There is something to be said for working with the flow of time, rather than against it. There’s ample data to demonstrate the eight hour, 9-5 workday does not promote wellness within a company/organization. Decolonizing your business is not the absence of designated work hours and time accountability, it is working with natural forms of time tracking. At MarleyAyo we view our year in seasons rather than quarters. We use winter to fast as a company, contracting and evaluating our success, needs, and new desires, releasing what no longer serves us. In spring we introduce the world to our new offerings and actively celebrate our creations with community partners throughout the summer when things naturally heighten. Fall we ride the wave of summer, harvesting what we’ve reaped and preparing for winter. We also use the moon calendar to schedule events and internally monitor astrological events to ensure we are working with the energy of all natural elements as frequently as possible.
I share these tips with the hope that they offer you insight into the many ways you can decolonize and culturally customize your business. Above all, feel empowered to create a business model that fits for you and what you are sharing with the world. Even if you adopt pieces from other models, don’t be afraid to put your own twist on it! After all, we didn’t get into the world of entrepreneurship to conform; we chose this path to BUILD.
ABOUT THEA: Thea Monyee’, Author, Speaker and Founder of MarleyAyo, Thea Monyee ́ is a licensed therapist committed to creating healing opportunities for Black/Marginalized bodies through decolonization, joy, and pleasure. Additionally, she is a public speaker, the host of ‘Shaping The Shift Podcast,’ founder of MarleyAyo, and The Blacker The Brain: A Mental Health Decolonizing Campaign, Conversation, & Cohort, co-host of ‘Dem Black Mamas ‘Podcast, and co-creator of The Free Joy Experience. She currently serves as a contributor on a policy working group supporting the objectives of the 2021 U.S. COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.